The tiny town of Landgrove, Vermont, like many small rural towns in New England, suffered from population decline in the early-mid 20th century. In Landgrove’s case, the town was effectively saved by one man, Samuel Ogden (1896-1985). Samuel was born in New Jersey but eventually visited rural Vermont, eventually buying a run-down farmhouse in Landgrove in the year 1929. By the ’30s and ’40s, began to buy up all the houses in town and fix them up and then sell to people he knew as summer vacation homes, saving historic houses and barns from decay and providing them a new life. He worked as a realtor, selling the restored homes for a series of well-known cultural figures: documentary filmmaker Robert Flaherty, artist Bernadine Custer, and the violinist Nathan Milstein, among many others. In the process, Ogden helped to create an informal network that linked writers and artists across his section of southern Vermont, effectively gentrifying the town in the process (for better or worse). One of his draws to bring wealthy city-dwellers to summer in the hills of Vermont, was a community center/tennis club, known as the Landgrove Tennis Club. The club is still members-only and has just one clay court, but the clubhouse is oh so charming!
This Georgian Revival brick building sits behind the Beneficent Church in Downtown Providence and is relatively well hidden off the busier streets. The structure was designed by the firm of Andrews, Jones, Briscoe & Whitmore, for the Providence Plantation Club, a women’s club. The women who gathered under this society were businesswomen, as well as women interested in the social and economic life and political life, at a moment just before they were granted the official right to vote by the US Constitution in 1920. The club was a success, starting with about 150 members and it reached more than 1300 members, just one year after its inception. As the only female architect of the society, Frances E. Henley got involved in promoting the Club in terms of its visuals and interior design. Ms. Henley was the first woman to study architecture at the Rhode Island School of Design and the first woman to independently practice architecture in Rhode Island. Henley was responsible for the interior design for multiple spaces in the building. When the club no longer needed such a building, Johnson & Wales University took it on in 1962. It is now called Wales Hall and houses a variety of offices and services.
Completed in 1880, the Newport Casino building is one of the best examples of Shingle style architecture in the world, and despite its name, it was never a gambling facility. Planning for the casino began a year earlier in August, 1879. Per legend, James Gordon Bennett, Jr., the influential publisher of the New York Herald and a summer resident of Newport, bet his polo partner, Captain Henry Augustus Candy, a retired officer of the Queen’s 9th Royal Lancers and skillful British polo player, to ride his horse onto the front porch of the exclusive gentlemen’s-only club, the Newport Reading Room. Candy took the dare one step further and rode straight through the clubrooms, which disturbed the members. After Candy’s guest membership was revoked, Bennett purchased the land across the street from his home, on Bellevue Avenue, and sought to build his own social club. Within a year, Bennett hired the newly formed architectural firm of McKim, Mead & White, who designed the U-shaped building for the new club. The Newport Casino was the firm’s first major commission and helped to establish MMW’s national reputation. The building included tennis courts, facilities for other games such as squash and lawn bowling, club rooms for reading, socializing, cards, and billiards, shops, and a convertible theater and ballroom. In the 20th century, the casino was threatened with demolition as Newport began to fall out of fashion as a summer resort. Saviors Candy and Jimmy Van Alen took over operating the club, and by 1954, had established the International Tennis Hall of Fame in the Newport Casino. The combination of prominent headliners at the tennis matches and the museum allowed the building to be saved. The building remains a National Landmark for its connections with gilded age society and possibly the first commission by McKim, Mead and White, who became one of the most prominent architectural firms in American history.
The Sippican Tennis Club in Marion, Massachusetts, was established in 1908 for the purpose of athletic exercise and a place for social gatherings in town. Historically, the town’s population surged in the summer months when wealthy city residents would flock here and stay in their waterfront mansions for a few months a year. The large hipped roof rectangular building was constructed just before the club opened in 1908, and it is flanked by eight tennis courts. Charles Allerton Coolidge, a principal in the well known firm, Shepley Rutan and Coolidge, was one of the original shareholders as well as the architect for the building. He also was a summer resident himself (his home was previously featured). The building is constructed of concrete and features paired, tapered columns which run the perimeter of the structure, supporting a deep porch. The broad elliptical arch and exposed rafters add to the Craftsman style flair of the building.
Before the days of cars and even trains ruled, people in New England would get around by horseback or stagecoach (horse-drawn carriages) from town to town. Due to the long travel times to get everywhere, many New Englanders built taverns, which served as inns and bars for the weary traveller on their journey. In 1812, a recently married Caleb Handy built this house to serve as a residence and source of income, as a tavern for travellers on the Plymouth-New Bedford stagecoach route. He married Sophia Dexter in 1811, who died just two years later at the age of 22. Two years after the death of his first wife, he married Sophia’s sister, Mary, who just turned 18 (he was 33). The tavern had a ballroom for local dances and a room for serving drinks, based principally on West Indian rum, that was shipped in from sugar plantations, owned by many wealthy white families in New England (many of whom exploited the slavery abroad). The Tavern was later owned by Benjamin Handy, who continued to operate it as a Tavern until the railroad made the stagecoach route obsolete in the middle of the 19th century. It then became a family home. The house was sold to the Sippican Women’s Club in 1923, who renovated and restored much of the building, and held luncheons and events inside. They maintain the building to this day.
The Rye Beach Club is located right on Rye Beach, one of New Hampshire’s most upscale seaside communities, one whose history as a fashionable summer resort dates back to the 1840s. The Beach Club was established in 1925 in the decade after the First World War as the nation was experiencing a social transformation fueled by the postwar boom of the “Roaring Twenties”. As automobile ownership rates increased by the 1920s, the average motorist was no longer dependent upon schedules and the fixed routes of streetcars, railroads and steamboats. As one early historian of American recreation noted tongue-in-cheek, “The wealthy could make the fashionable tour in 1825, the well-to-do built up summer resorts of the 1890s, but every Tom, Dick and Harry toured the country in the 1930s.” As a result, many wealthy communities created private, exclusive recreation and social clubs where they would not be forced to mingle with the “average” American. Rye Beach residents formed the Rye Beach Club in 1925, which comprises of a rubblestone building with various wood-frame additions.
In the Spring of 1880, thirteen Hull, Massachusetts, summer residents, who owned and raced small sailboats, met and decided to form a yacht club. The Hull Yacht Club was founded that same year. During the first two seasons there was no club house, sailing events were run from a private pier and dock and meetings were held at members homes. Even though they started with no club house, being close to Boston with plenty of deep, protected water, drew many new members. The first clubhouse here was constructed in 1882 and the club saw membership soar to over 500. The clubhouse was quickly deemed inadequate for the Boston-area elite and their massive sloops. The second Hull Yacht Club was completed in May 1891. The New York Times and Outing Magazine described the new club as one of the grandest yacht clubs in America, and at the time, it had the second highest membership in the country! The main club house was designed by architect S. Edwin Tobey, and stood four stories, with a 12 foot wide piazza on three sides covered by endless expanses of shingles. The third floor had billiard rooms and public and private dinning, committee room, reading room, wine room, The second floor housed three bowling alleys, and the first floor had lockers, showers, laundry, spar storage. The club merged a couple times over the subsequent decades, but suffered heavily due to the Great Depression, when the Gilded Age monies stopped flowing as freely. The club sold the massive shingled building to developers who sought to convert the building into a resort, but it was deemed a fire hazard and razed in the 1930s. The club erected a new, modest clubhouse near Point Allerton later.